E3 2016: Tekken 7 Hands-on Impressions – Clash of the kings

Tekken has been around for a while now. If you consider it was one of the PlayStation’s first games ever, one could parry the success of both products throughout the years. Everyone that owned a PlayStation probably played Tekken at some point or another, mainly because it was by far the best fighting games out in the early days of Sony’s first console, surpassing its rival, Battle Arena Toshinden by miles.

Many iterations later, for both console and game franchise, Tekken 7 is nearly upon us, and now its banner feature is the crossing with another gigantic fighting game franchise, Street Fighter, by fitting one of its most popular characters ever into its ever convoluted fiction. Akuma bursts into the scene to avenge the death of Tekken’s series long villain Heihachi Mishima’s wife, with whom he had some sort of relation. For reasons unknown, it took him this long to track our mustachioed, thrower of sons into volcano and incredibly limber for his age friend, but then again, if who’ve been keeping track of the absurdities of the story so far, you’ve probably given up making sense of anything that’s gone on since the very first Tekken.

Fact of the matter is that Akuma fits in incredibly well within Tekken. Street Fighter‘s been a two dimensional plane fighting game for most of its run, so it’s impressive that he made the transition so well to the different fighting game system from Tekken. The big thing that should bear mentioning is that he’s retained every single move from his home franchise, down to his projectiles, which have never really played well in other polygonal fighters.

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Having had the limited opportunity to test the game out, time constraints and all, it was clear to me that this is pretty much the best transition between wildly different styles that I’ve seen recently. Granted, that was only one character making the transition, and while or not we’ll ever see Tekken X Street Fighter, which is supposed to bring even more Street Fighters to Tekken, like the opposite with the mildly received Street Fighter X Tekken, Akuma’s presence at Tekken 7 is shockingly solid, making him the most interesting character in the demo, and certainly the most unique to try out for sure.

It was teased through Xbox’s press conference and via Bandai Namco’s E3 appointment that Akuma and Heihachi trade blows right from the get go in the game, and the demo provided at the show featured both of these characters as well as a few more, some of which are supposed to be new to the roster. Since I haven’t been keeping up with Tekken since its PlayStation 2 days, it’s a little tough to pick them out from the overall roster, which has gotten considerably larger since then. Regardless, the newbies to the crew proved to be well fit within the overall gameplay style of Tekken, Lucky Chloe being the standout in my time both seeing and playing the game. She’s very unique looking, being a huge fan of Japanese culture, while not being the least Japanese looking herself, sporting long blond ponytails, a tail and white cat hands and ears. If you’ve been reading this preview so far, you know what you’re in for with Tekken. It’s crazy.

Gameplay wise, Tekken 7 features its share of improvements over the previous games. First that was hammered home during both presentations, it that Tekken now runs on Unreal Engine 4. That’s in part responsible for just how good the game looks, sporting great lighting, detail on characters and the possibility of having a lot of the dramatic camera shots shown in trailers that actually take place during fights, as special moves are unleashed. Then again, the Tekken games have always been on the front of the visual department since the series inception.

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But as for actually playing the game, little has changed, and I felt at home when I threw my hat into the ring for the demo. Features wise, there are three apparently new mechanics to the game: rage arts, rage drive and power crush. The former two deal with the rage meter, which builds up similarly to the ‘super’ one in most fighting games, going up as you take and deal damage, with arts working as a super move that can be either defensive or offensive and drive being a series of quick attacks that help get you out of a bind. Power crush, on the other hand, works in similar fashion Killer Instinct’s combo breaker in a way, giving you a chance to escape those by doing a strong or medium attack of your own, absorbing a lot of damage in the process.

All of these new mechanics sound great in a presentation, but actually work really well when playing the game proper. While the full breadth of their capabilities was far from my personal skills playing Tekken 7 at the show floor, it was fun to get to see a their immediate effects while simply button mashing my way through fights. It’s worth noting that Akuma is also unique in this, as his meter isn’t tied to the rage mechanics, working more like the more familiar EX move set, brought over from Street Fighter, slowly built up and spent with the use of special moves. Pretty much what you might’ve seen and played in those games over the years, making that guy even more unique to play as.

Frankly, Tekken 7 might just bring me back to the series. Although I have spent a lot of time playing its first three games during the PlayStation era, I’ve failed to keep up with the franchise. Sure, I’ve watched its participation in EVO, the biggest fighting game tournament that takes place in Las Vegas every year, but very little of my time was spent with later versions, outside of my very limited stint with the free-to-play Tekken Revolution. For as good as that game was, it didn’t feel like a full game thanks to all of its limitations tied to the FTP model. Thus, Tekken 7 will probably be my first big boy Tekken in quite a while, mostly thanks Akuma now making part of the family, and just how well he felt among the colorful cast gameplay wise. Hopefully I’ll keep my promise come release, as Tekken 7 hits PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC later this year.

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